Commentary & Community

U.S. House Resolution 11: Disapprove of UN Resolution Condemning Israel


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U.S. House Resolution 11, Disapprove of UN resolution condemning Israel: Passed 342 to 80 in the U.S. House on January 5, 2017


To express the sense of the House of Representatives that it opposes United Nations resolution 2334, which condemned Israel for building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. When the U.N. Security Council passed this resolution in December 2016, the U.S. representative to the U.N. abstained from the vote. This allowed the resolution to be adopted after many past votes brought by Israel opponents were defeated by a US veto. Since a future repeal effort can also be vetoed by other Security Council members including Russia and China, it probably means the resolution will remain in effect indefinitely.





U.S. House Bill 7: Ban Federal Funding of Abortion


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U.S. House Bill 7, Ban federal funding of abortion: Passed 238 to 183 in the U.S. House on January 24, 2017


To prohibit using federal government money to pay for abortions. The bill would make permanent the “Hyde Amendment,” which has been attached to annual spending bills to prohibit federal funding of abortions. It (or another one-year Hyde amendment) would prohibit Medicaid or other federal programs from paying for abortions, and prohibit insurance companies from selling policies that pay for abortions through the federal health care law exchanges.


The Road Ahead for Neil Gorsuch


President Trump has nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. What lies ahead on Gorsuch’s path to sit on the high court?

To become the ninth justice, Gorsuch must be confirmed by the Senate. Traditionally, nominees take weeks meeting individually with any senator who requests a meeting. After that, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings.


Judiciary Committee hearings have become “must see TV” for political junkies over the past few decades. This is a chance for senators to ask questions about a judge’s past rulings, his or her judicial philosophy, and anything else that a senator desires. A nominee may or may not answer these questions directly. For instance, it is a general practice for nominees to refuse to answer any questions about how he or she will rule on certain issues.

The committee hearings may last weeks. Once this step is completed, the committee will then vote on the nominee. A favorable vote will send that nominee to the full Senate floor. As has been the case with many recent nominees, we can probably expect that there will be something of a partisan divide when the Judiciary Committee votes. It is likely that every Republican will vote in favor of Gorsuch. Many, perhaps the majority, of Democratic committee members are likely to oppose him.


The real political drama will begin when the full Senate considers Gorsuch’s nomination. Currently, Senate rules allow a minority of senators to filibuster (or debate without a time limit) a Supreme Court nominee. The only way to stop this debate and proceed to a vote on the nominee is a successful cloture vote, which takes 60 senators to approve. Prior to 2013, senators could filibuster any judicial nominee. Harry Reid, who was the Democratic majority leader at the time, ended that practice.


Some Democratic senators have already indicated that they intend to filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination. One of their main complaints is that the Republican majority did not even schedule a committee hearing when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland for this position last year. They contend that the seat is “stolen” and should not be filled by President Trump. An actual filibuster attempt against a Supreme Court nominee has rarely been attempted, however.


If 40 of these senators engage in a filibuster, then Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, could engineer a change in Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster option for Supreme Court nominees. Sen. McConnell has long been wary of changing Senate rules, and he has defended the filibuster in the past. But in the face of a filibuster over Gorsuch, he may expand on the precedent set by Harry Reid in 2013.


Some Senate Democrats are also wary of ending the filibuster. There are likely to be some senators who will vote against Gorsuch but who will not support a filibuster. In that instance, we would see at least 60 votes to end debate on the Gorsuch nomination, but fewer votes to approve Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Given that there are 52 Republicans in the Senate, approval of Gorsuch is almost assured. The real question is how many Democrats will join the Republicans in voting for him.


Do you think that Senate Democrats should filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination?


Reactions to Supreme Couty Nominee Neil Gorsuch Split Along Party Lines


On Tuesday, President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.


As may be expected in these polarized times, reactions to Gorsuch largely fell along partisan lines. Republicans and conservatives praised him, while Democrats and liberals attacked him.


Senator Mike Lee of Utah said that Gorsuch is “a prepared, thoughtful, and careful jurist, who has demonstrated a strong commitment to textualism and originalism.” Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said, “Judge Gorsuch is a worthy successor to Justice Scalia, a committed originalist and a strong defender of religious liberty and states’ rights.” According to Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, “Gorsuch is a highly-regarded jurist with a record of distinguished service, rooted in respect for the law.”


Mark Joseph Stern at Slate wrote, “Gorsuch’s credentials are impeccable. His writing is superb, incisive, witty, and accessible in the style of Scalia and Justice Elena Kagan. In speeches and oral arguments, he comes across as thoughtful and fair-minded.”


Others hold a different view of Gorsuch. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi accused Gorsuch of being “hostile to women’s rights,” and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said that Gorsuch favored “corporations over workers.”


Senate Democrats expressed a varying range of opinions on Gorsuch, and on what should happen to his nomination. Some, like Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Ron Wyden of Oregon, said outright that they would not support him.


Others expressed dismay at the process, contending that this nomination is flawed because last year Senate Republican’s refused to consider former President Obama’s nomination, Merrick Garland. “This is a stolen seat being filled by an illegitimate and extreme nominee, and I will do everything in my power to stand up against this assault on the Court,” said Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon


Taken together, it seems Senate Democrats may be poised to filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination, which, if successful, would require a supermajority to overcome en route to Gorsuch’s confirmation. Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island contends that this is reasonable because “all of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees cleared a sixty vote threshold and President Trump’s nominee should adhere to the same standard.”


Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may also engineer a rule change eliminating the ability to filibuster Supreme Court nominations, thereby lowering the votes required for confirmation to a simple majority.   (This would be similar to the rule change then-Majority Leader Harry Reid engineered in 2013 for lower court nominations).


The next few weeks should give us a better idea about how the Senate will proceed on the Gorsuch nomination.


Do you think Gorsuch is qualified to fill the empty seat on the Supreme Court?


Trump Nominates Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court


Today President Donald Trump nominated federal judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. A Colorado native, Judge Gorsuch currently serves on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. President George W. Bush appointed him to that position in 2006.


If approved, Gorsuch will fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia early last year. President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill that seat, but the Republican majority in the Senate refused to give Garland a committee hearing, much less a vote on the Senate floor. Since then, the Supreme Court has been operating with eight members.


Garland’s nomination expired with the end of the previous session of Congress, giving President Trump an opportunity to name his own nominee for the seat. 


Gorsuch will spend the next few weeks meeting with individual senators ahead of his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Once recommended by the Senate Judiciary Committee, a vote by the full Senate will follow.


The fifty-two Senate Republicans have the simple majority needed to confirm Gorsuch, but Senate Democrats have signaled that they will filibuster the nominee. A successful filibuster would require a supermajority of sixty votes to end debate and force a final vote. If Democrats go this route, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could pursue the “nuclear option” and move to end the ability to filibuster Supreme Court nominees. In 2013, then-Majority Leader Harry Reid did something similar by ending the ability to filibuster lower court nominees.


All eyes are now on the Senators Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein, the chair and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. They and the eighteen other committee members will be the first to provide ‘advice and consent’ on President Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.


Congress Laying Groundwork for President Trump



In early January, members of Congress returned to Washington with an aggressive legislative agenda. Even though Barack Obama was still president during the first few weeks of the month, representatives and senators were busy passing laws that reflect the priorities of the incoming president, Donald Trump.


President Obama would have likely vetoed many, if not all, of the bills passed by Congress during this time. However, President Trump is almost certain to welcome them if they make it through both houses of Congress. These bills lay the foundation for presidential action during Trump’s first 100 days in office.


Here are some of the things that Congress has done so far:


Cleared the way for General Mattis to be Secretary of Defense: federal law prohibits anyone who has served in the military during the past 7 years from being Secretary of Defense. This prohibition would have disqualified Trump’s pick for Defense Secretary, General James Mattis. Both the House and Senate passed a bill that essentially waives this requirement for Gen. Mattis.


Set budget rules for Obamacare repeal: President Trump has made no secret of his desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The Senate rejected a series of amendments to its budget resolution that would have prevented that body from considering repeal legislation. These amendments were designed to highlight what Democrats consider problems with repealing the law, such as cutting Medicaid or ending the mandate for contraceptive coverage. When the Senate passed its budget bill, it set in motion a process that will allow certain repeal legislation to proceed with a majority vote. That will prevent Democrats from using a filibuster to stop such bills.


Revamped regulatory process: it has been a regular practice for presidents to propose a large number of regulatory changes during their final weeks in office. President Obama has been no exception, and his proposed regulations have drawn the ire of Congress. To end the “last minute” regulatory push by lame duck presidents, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would allow Congress to reject these rules as a whole. Current law allows Congress to reject rules one-by-one, but this is a time consuming process. The House also passed a bill that would require Congressional approval of regulations that would have an economic impact of $100 million or more. Another bill passed by the House would require the issuance of less-costly regulations, make it easier for judges to overturn new rules, and prevent large regulations from taking effect until court actions against them are completed.


What do you think should be the legislative priorities of President Trump and Congress?


What’s Going to Happen in the Lame Duck Congress?

Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate return this week for a “lame duck” session of Congress. This session, held after the election but before newly-elected members are sworn in, has a number of important issues to deal with. With Donald Trump being elected president, however, Republicans are likely to make efforts to ensure that any high-profile controversies are moved into next year. They would much rather deal with President Trump in 2017 than with President Obama in the waning days of 2016.


Here are some areas where we could see movement before Congress adjourns in December:


Appropriations: A short-term spending measure to keep the government funded expires on December 9. If Congress and the president don’t agree on a spending plan by then, the government will partially shut down. Congress has two options: pass an omnibus spending bill that will fund the government through the end of this fiscal year, or pass a short-term continuing resolution that funds the government through the beginning of President Trump’s term. There are significant differences between the spending plan favored by Congress and the one favored by President Obama, especially over defense funding. These differences are likely to go away under President Trump, so expect Congress to pass a short-term spending measure and then make a longer-term deal with the new president.


Defense: legislation that authorizes spending on our nation’s defense is being held up by a provision that would exempt defense contractors from Obama Administration anti-discrimination rules. Republicans in Congress have inserted language in the bill that they say protects the religious freedom of contractors when it comes to dealing with gay and lesbian individuals. If Congress does not remove this language, it could lead to a presidential veto of the bill.


Iran: the Iran Sanctions Act expires at the end of this year. The House of Representatives has a bipartisan bill that would renew the sanctions for 10 years. Some Republicans in the Senate want a tougher measure.


Medical: there is bipartisan support for legislation that would remove federal roadblocks to approval of new drugs and medical treatment. This could be a rare area of agreement in the lame duck between Congress and the White House.


Supreme Court: Senate Republicans have refused to hold hearings or a vote on President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland. With Trump’s election, there is no chance that they will allow Garland’s confirmation in the lame duck session. President Trump will name his own nominee to fill this seat once he takes office in January.


Trans-Pacific Partnership: Trump never hesitated to express his disdain for this and other trade agreements. The Senate will not consider this trade accord during the lame duck session.


What Will Happen in the House in 2017?

Post-election update: Democrats gained seats in the House of Representatives, but not enough to end the GOP majority. Working with President Trump, House Republicans will likely pass legislation to repeal Obamacare (in whole or part) early in 2017. They could also move quickly to enact Trump’s tax policies and pass legislation to deal with immigration. Due to Paul Ryan’s lukewarm support of Trump, there will likely be efforts to replace him as Speaker of the House. These efforts probably do not have enough support to have any effect.


With Election Day quickly approaching, it seems likely that Republicans will retain control of the House of Representatives. Even though this is a continuation of the situation that exists currently, that does not mean that all will remain the same in the lower body of Congress.


Even if Republicans keep control, for instance, that does not mean that House Speaker Paul Ryan is guaranteed to keep his job. Some House members are dissatisfied at Ryan’s lackluster support of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. When the new session of Congress convenes in January, there will likely be some effort to replace Ryan as speaker. It is unlikely that a majority of the House members would support such an effort, however.


Under a Clinton presidency, a Republican-led House would act similar to what it has done under the Obama Administration. There would be major fights over the yearly appropriations bills, with the possibility of more partial-government shutdowns if the White House and Congress cannot agree. The House would also pass legislation, such as eliminating Obamacare, which members know will not survive the Senate or the president’s veto. Any major initiatives that President Clinton would propose would likely be stopped or scaled back by a Republican House. House Republicans would also be very likely to open numerous investigations into Hillary Clinton’s activities.


President Trump would find it easier to work with a Republican House. The House members would not be a stumbling block to his major initiatives. Of course, Trump could face issues from the group of Republicans who did not support him or who only offered tepid support. It is unlikely that a Republican-majority House would act as a rubber stamp for President Trump, but it is also unlikely that they would frustrate him the way they would try to do President Clinton.


In the event that the Democrats took the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi would probably retake the gavel as speaker. She would use that power to support President Clinton’s initiatives or to thwart whatever President Trump sent to Capitol Hill. Under Democratic control, any major investigations of Clinton would be few, if any.


In the House of Representatives, whoever controls the majority of seats controls the agenda in a way that is unlike the Senate. There are few procedural checks on the majority’s power in the House, and there is nothing like the Senate filibuster. The Speaker of the House has vast powers to determine what the body does and what legislation will pass. That makes having a friendly House majority very important for whichever candidate wins the White House.


What do you think the House agenda should be for 2017?


The Senate Agenda for 2017

Post-election update: Republicans won most of the key Senate battles on Tuesday, setting up a scenario where a Republican majority will serve with President Trump. It is unclear the extent of the majority, since two races are currently unresolved. Regardless of the outcome of these races, Republicans will not have enough senators to defeat Democratic filibusters. That means Trump will have trouble getting his policies through this chamber if he does not work across party lines. Because Senate Republicans refused to hold a vote on Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, it is likely that Trump will face a fight early in his term over filling this Supreme Court vacancy. The Senate is also likely to tackle an Obamacare repeal early in 2017. Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will be the majority leader and New York’s Chuck Schumer will be minority leader.


What will the U.S. Senate look like when new senators are sworn in on January 3, 2017?


The fate of Republican control of the Senate depends on how races turn out in a few states, such as North Carolina, Florida, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, Democrats need to pick up four seats now held by Republicans (Tim Kaine, as vice president, would break any tie in a Senate divided 50-50 between the two parties). A Donald Trump win would mean that the Democrats need to gain five seats.


Because of the Senate’s rules and traditions, a switch in partisan control does not bring a major swing in policy direction. That is especially true in an evenly-divided Senate or one where a party has narrow majority. To advance a bill that has even a hint of controversy requires that the majority leader must find a super-majority. That is because a cloture motion, or motion to cut off debate on legislation, requires 60 votes.


Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois is likely to be the majority leader if the Democrats take control of the Senate, and the minority leader if they don’t. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is almost certain to remain majority leader if his party retains control, but be demoted to minority leader if the Democrats prevail in enough close races to take the Senate.


Under a Clinton presidency, a Democratic Senate majority would not have a free hand to push through whatever legislation they favor. Even if they are in the minority, Republicans will have enough seats to block legislation and nominees through a filibuster. The reverse holds true for a Republican majority during a Trump administration. For a bill to emerge from the Senate, it takes bipartisan cooperation. Given this year’s election, that is likely to be in short supply no matter who sits in the White House.


The next president’s term could also see an end to the tradition that Supreme Court nominees are not filibustered. Republicans have already signaled that they may block any Clinton nominee to the high court, and Democrats may do the same under President Trump.


It is unclear how a Senate with a Republican majority would work under a Trump presidency. Some Republican senators, such as Jeff Flake from Arizona and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, have openly rejected the GOP nominee. Others have wavered in their support of him. Would these senators feel party loyalty to President Trump, or would they feel free to oppose him when he is office just as they oppose him on the campaign trail? A Democratic majority under a Trump presidency would ensure numerous roadblocks for any legislative proposal that may come from the White House.


Regardless of which party holds power, some senators in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party have said they would work with Vermont’s Bernie Sanders (who is an independent, but who caucuses with the Democrats) to push what they call a “progressive agenda” of a higher minimum wage, criminal justice reform, and a focus on the environment. These liberal senators have said that even under a Clinton presidency, they may oppose cabinet nominees who they view as too cozy with business.


Given the unpredictable nature of this election, no one can make a solid bet about which party will end up in control of the Senate in January 2017. Only once the votes are counted on Election Day will we know for sure.


What initiatives do you think senators should pursue next year?


All about Iran: payments, assets, financial transactions, heavy water, and compensating terror attack victims


Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Congress during the current legislative session, and go to to signup and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.


House Bill 5931, Prohibit prisoner release payments to Iran: Passed 254 to 163 in the House on September 22, 2016

To prohibit the U.S. government from making payments to Iran to release U.S. citizens held as prisoners.


House Bill 5461, Require report on Iranian officials’ assets: Passed 282 to 143 in the House on September 21, 2016

To require the Treasury Department to compile a report on the assets held by certain Iranian officials and disclose this report to the public. Opponents of the measure contend it is a way to undermine the recent nuclear deal with Iran.


House Bill 4992, Restrict financial transactions with Iran: Passed 246 to 181 in the House on July 14, 2016

To authorize regulations that prohibit financial institutions from directly or indirectly transferring dollars to Iran until the president certifies it is not supporting acts of international terrorism or developing weapons of mass destruction.


House Bill 5119, Prohibit the purchase of heavy water from Iran: Passed 249 to 176 in the House on July 13, 2016

To prohibit any federal agencies from purchasing heavy water from Iran, which is a substance used to produce nuclear bombs. This would block part of the Obama Administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.


House Bill 3457, Keep Iran sanctions until it compensates terror attack victims: Passed 251 to 173 in the House on October 13, 2015

To bar the White House from removing economic sanctions against Iran unless Iran compensates U.S. victims of terror attacks financed by the Iranian regime. Lifting economic sanctions is part of the deal the President negotiated with Iran on its nuclear bomb program. American courts have awarded $46 billion to over 1,300 victims of terrorist attacks sponsored by Iran. The White House says the bill would "obstruct implementation" of the Iran deal.


Keep Guantanamo Bay prisoners locked up, close Guantanamo Bay, terror lawsuits, and Middle East war funding



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House Bill 5351, Prevent transfer or release of Guantanamo Bay detainees: Passed 244 to 174 in the House on September 15, 2016

To prohibit any federal funding from being used to transfer or release individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay.


Lamborn amendment to House Bill 5293, Stop transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees: Passed 245 to 175 in the House on June 16, 2016

To prohibit funds from being spent to survey, assess, or review potential detention locations in the United States for detainees currently held in Guantanamo Bay.


Nadler amendment to House Bill 4909, Allow closure of Guantanamo Bay: Failed 163 to 259 in the House on May 18, 2016

To remove the prohibition on spending funds to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.


Override veto of Senate Bill 2040, Allow terrorism lawsuits: Passed 348 to 77 in the House and 97 to 1 in the Senate on September 28, 2016

To override President Obama's veto of legislation that would allow civil lawsuits to be brought against foreign states for injuries, death, or damages as a result of an action of terrorism.


Lee amendment to House Bill 5293, Prohibit spending on war in Iraq and Syria: Failed 146 to 274 in the House on June 16, 2016

To prohibit funds from being used to carry out the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which authorized military action against terrorism. The current military action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria are being undertaken under this 2001 authorization.


Watch list gun control, ammo regulation, Amtrak funding, ban transactions with Iran


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McConnell Amendment to House Bill 2578, Screen gun transfers to suspected terrorists: Failed 53 to 47 in the Senate on June 20, 2016

To establish a procedure that lets a judge review and deny gun sales to someone who has been investigated as a known or suspected terrorist. An individual could dispute the charges, but if there is probable cause that the person has or will commit an act of terrorism, he or she could be arrested. This was a vote for cloture, or to bring debate to an end, and required 60 votes to succeed.


Feinstein amendment to House Bill 2578, Deny gun transfers to suspected terrorists: Failed 47 to 53 in the Senate on June 20, 2016

To give the Attorney General authority to ban firearm sales to someone Attorney General concludes is engaged in or preparing for terrorism. This was a vote for cloture, or to bring debate to an end, and required 60 votes to succeed.


Massie Amendment to House Bill 2578, Prohibit agencies from defining rifle ammunition as armor-piercing: Passed 250 to 171 in the House on June 3, 2015

To prevent federal agencies from defining ammunition as “armor-piercing” unless that ammunition is intended to be used in handguns. Many types of standard rifle ammunition in wide use could be restricted under rules recently proposed by the Obama administration, because possession of armor-piercing ammunition is subject to stringent regulations.


House Bill 749, Appropriate $1.88 billion for Amtrak: Passed 316 to 101 in the House on March 4, 2015

To authorize $1.88 billion in federal subsidies for Amtrak passenger rail service through 2019.


House Bill 4992, Restrict financial transactions with Iran: Passed 246 to 181 in the House on July 14, 2016

To authorize regulations that prohibit financial institutions from directly or indirectly transferring dollars to Iran until the president certifies it is not supporting acts of international terrorism or developing weapons of mass destruction.


Carbon restrictions, water rules, fossil fuel speech, offshore drilling, and cutting the EPA budget



Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Congress during the current legislative session, and go to to signup and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.


House Bill 2042, Delay EPA carbon dioxide emission regulations: Passed 247 to 180 in the House on June 24, 2015

To extend the deadline for states to comply with new restrictions imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency on carbon dioxide releases from existing power plants, and let state governors refuse to comply if the regulations would significantly raise electricity rates or reduce reliability.


Senate Joint Resolution 22, Reject expanded regulation of U.S. waters: Passed 53 to 44 in the Senate on November 4, 2015, and 253 to 166 in the House on January 13, 2016. Vetoed by the president on January 20, 2016.

To reject the Environmental Protection Agency's Waters of the United States rule that would expand the authority of the federal government to regulate all rivers, streams, and creeks regardless of whether they are navigable.


Amendment to Senate Bill 2012, Impose political speech restrictions on persons connected to fossil fuels: Failed 43 to 52 in the Senate on February 2, 2016

To prohibit any person or entity that earns or receives more than $1 million from “fossil fuel activities” from spending more than $10,000 communicating information or viewpoints on this issue to the public, unless the person files a special report with the federal government explaining their activity. This amendment required 60 votes for passage.


Amendment to House Bill 5538, Prevent oil exploration in the Atlantic: Failed 192 to 236 in the House on July 13, 2016

To prevent the federal government from spending funds to conduct geological activities that would support oil and natural gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean.


Amendment to House Bill 5538, Reduce EPA budget by 17%: Failed 188 to 239 in the House on July 13, 2016

To reduce the amount of money appropriated for the Environmental Protection Agency by 17%.


Audit the Fed, repeal death tax, authorize Keystone Pipeline, end subsidized mobile phones, and cut spending by 1%


Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Congress during the current legislative session, and go to to signup and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.


Senate Bill 2232, Audit the Federal Reserve: Failed 53 to 44 in the Senate on January 12, 2016.

To direct the Government Accountability Office to audit the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and report its findings to Congress. This was a vote on cloture, meaning the bill required 60 votes for passage.

House Bill 1105, Repeal federal estate tax: Passed 240 to 179 in the House on April 16, 2015.

To repeal the federal estate tax, which is a 40 rate on the value of an estate above $5.43 million, which the government seeks to collect upon the death of a taxpayer. The bill would also repeal a so-called "generation skipping" tax (an additional tax placed on money given to grandchildren or great-grandchildren directly), and cap the federal gift tax rate at 35 percent.

Senate Bill 1 Authorize Keystone Pipeline: Passed 62 to 36 in the Senate on January 29, 2015, and 270 to 152 in the Senate on February 11, 2015. Vetoed by the president on February 24, 2015.

To authorize construction of the Keystone oil pipeline, which will complete a network transporting crude oil from Canadian oilfields to existing U.S. pipelines ultimately connected to refineries in Texas. The bill "deems" that an environmental impact statement done previously by the Department of State (as part of the border crossing permit process) hereby satisfies all federal environmental law requirements, and past permits are still valid. The Senate added provisions amending and in some cases expanding various unrelated federal energy programs, standards and regulations.

House Bill 5525, End government-subsidized mobile phone service: Failed 207 to 143 in the House on June 21, 2016.

To end the program that provides a subsidy to mobile phone companies to give low-income customers a discount on mobile phone service. The measure was defeated, because the vote was on a motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, which requires a 2/3 super-majority.

Blackburn amendment U.S. House Bill 5538, Cut some agencies’ spending by 1%: Failed 171 to 258 in the House on July 13, 2016.

To cut proposed spending for the Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and related agencies by 1% across-the-board.

Impeach the IRS Commissioner?

If some congressmen have their way, Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen will be leaving office shortly.

There is a move in the House of Representatives to impeach the Commissioner Koskinen. Members of the House could force a vote on this in the near future. Members of the House Freedom Caucus want him disciplined for what they view as a failure to comply with the investigation into Lois Lerner’s activities regarding conservative nonprofits.

National Review sums up the case against Koskinen:

“Koskinen, who became commissioner after Lerner left, failed to disclose the disappearance of e-mails germane to a congressional investigation of IRS misbehavior. Under his leadership, the IRS failed to comply with a preservation order pertaining to an investigation. He did not testify accurately or keep promises made to Congress. Subpoenaed documents, including 422 tapes potentially containing 24,000 Lerner e-mails, were destroyed. He falsely testified that the Government Accountability Office’s report on IRS practices found ‘no examples of anyone who was improperly selected for an audit.’”

The editors of the Washington Post, on the other hand, say that impeachment would be an abuse of the process:

“The cumbersome and partisan Senate confirmation process has made it hard enough to fully staff the highest realms of government with competent people. Never-ending, partisan impeachment proceedings against executive officers would make it even harder to keep the essential mechanics of government working. The result would be more bureaucratic bungling, not less.”

Generally impeachment motions first go through the House Judiciary Committee. With the Judiciary Committee failing to act, however, some House Republicans want to use a procedural motion to force a vote on the House floor. That idea is meeting resistance from some House Republican leaders.

Impeachment is only the first step in the process of removal for office. If a majority of the House of Representatives votes in favor of impeachment, then it would be up to the Senate to have a trial and vote on whether to remove Koskinen from office. Senate leaders have said they will not conduct a trial if the House votes for impeachment.

Only one cabinet official has ever been impeached -- Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876.

Do you think that the House of Representatives should impeach Commissioner Koskinen? Or do you think that the impeachment proceedings are an abuse of the process?

What’s the Holdup for Zika Funding?


With 42 Floridians catching Zika, there is concern there and in neighboring states that the virus could spread. In Congress, both Democrats and Republicans say they want to provide federal funds to combat the virus. And yet, no funds have been approved.

The culprit, as is so often the case, can be blamed on partisan gridlock.

Funding for combatting Zika is contained in one of the thirteen appropriations, or spending, bills that Congress must pass every year to fund the government. This bill contains funding not only for Zika efforts, but also for other government functions.

The House of Representatives passed this legislation with a vote of 239-17 on June 23. Senate Democrats, however, are refusing to allow the bill come to a vote in that chamber. Although a majority of Senators voted to proceed with a final vote in late June by a vote of 52-48, that vote was not enough to reach the 60-vote threshold to overcome the Democrats’ filibuster.

Why are they blocking the bill?

It’s not because of the Zika funding, but because of the other items in the bill. Among their issues of concern:
• Defunding the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare – the legislation would remove $500 million in funding for this program
• Defunding Planned Parenthood
• Allowing wider use of pesticides to destroy mosquitoes
• Continuing to allow Confederate flags to fly in military cemeteries

Republicans contend that Democrats are so fixated on these unrelated issues that they will allow Zika to spread in order to protect Obamacare and Planned Parenthood. Democrats, on the other hand, say that Republicans are holding Zika funding hostage to get their way on these contentious social issues.

This situation is why Congress recessed for its summer break without coming to agreement on an issue that both Republicans and Democrats, in essence, agree on.

Should the Senate pass this legislation, even with these controversial provisions? Or should Senate Democrats insist that Republicans remove the contentious sections of the spending bill before Zika funding is approved?


House returns to resume a bitter fight over gun control

Congress will be taking up gun control this week. Do you support banning people placed on certain government lists, but who have not been arrested or even charged with a crime, from being able to purchase firearms?

The Supreme Court’s Conservative Run Is Over

With recent decisions upholding affirmative action and striking down abortion restrictions, some say the Supreme Court’s conservative era is over. Do you think it is proper to look at the court as having a “conservative” or “liberal” tendency? Is the court too politicized, or are political considerations inevitable on controversial questions?


Koch Group Pushes 2-Year ‘Stop, Cut, and Fix’ Spending Plan on Congress

One limited government group is urging Congress not to enact individual spending bills this year. Instead, it proposes funding the government at current spending levels for the next two years and working on a plan to cut spending in 2018. This would end the threat of a government shutdown and give Congress time to find ways to trim spending. What do you think?

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